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Dodgers Rumors: Pros and Cons of Top Offseason Targets

Nick Ostiller@@NickOstillerContributor IINovember 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates' Russell Martin hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers' new-look front office led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi will have some important decisions to make this offseason.

Most notably, the team is in need of a new shortstop, as Hanley Ramirez rejected Los Angeles' qualifying offer and is now officially a free agent, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles TimesThe Dodgers do not plan to extend Ramirez a new multiyear contract.

Other holes that will need to be plugged this winter include those in the bullpen, at the catcher position and in the starting rotation.

There are several players who may spark the Dodgers' interest in the coming months regarding these needs. The following lists the pros and cons of each potential target.

Alexei Ramirez

At shortstop, the Dodgers could conceivably replace one Ramirez with another.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

According to CBSChicago's Bruce Levine, Alexei Ramirez is in high demand among a few MLB clubs including the Dodgers. The 33-year-old Chicago White Sox shortstop was an American League All-Star last season and recently won the Silver Slugger Award.

Pros

If the Dodgers were able to land Ramirez, he would provide an immediate upgrade over incumbent Los Angeles shortstops Miguel Rojas and Erisbel Arruebarrena. Ramirez is a sure-handed defensive player like the aforementioned names but offers the offensive prowess the other two lack. Ramirez batted .273 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI this past season. Compare that to Hanley Ramirez's .283 average, 13 home runs and 71 RBI in 2014.

Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com explains another pro involved with acquiring Ramirez:

Mark Saxon @markasaxon

Alexei Ramirez, 33, would make sense for the #Dodgers as a place holder for Corey Seager. Ramirez owed $10m next year with an option for '16

The Dodgers may view Ramirez as an ideal stopgap at shortstop until top prospect Corey Seager is ready to take over the position. Based on Seager's progression, he is on pace to become an everyday player by the start of the 2016 season. If Los Angeles feels that Seager is ready after next season, the team could simply choose not to pick up Ramirez's option for 2016.

Cons

The Dodgers—despite their deep pockets—may be hesitant to fork over another $10 million for what could effectively become a one-year deal. The last $10 million deal the team doled out went to Brian Wilson, which ended up backfiring in former general manager Ned Colletti's face.

Friedman and Zaidi were brought in to change the culture of the organization, and paying a 33-year-old $10 million to play shortstop may not be what Stan Kasten and his ownership group had in mind.

Los Angeles has also invested $25 million in Arruebarrena, while another $28 million is owed to Alex Guerrero, an alternative option at shortstop. These contracts have already sat around for nearly a year without the players seeing much of the field. Bringing in Ramirez will only continue this trend.

Andrew Miller

One of the biggest black holes hindering the 2014 Dodgers was their bullpen, specifically the eighth-inning bridge to closer Kenley Jansen. The back end of the relief corps figures to be a major area of emphasis this offseason, and Los Angeles should give a long look at free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller.

Pros

Miller is arguably the best reliever available this winter, and the Dodgers' bullpen could use another left-hander to complement J.P. Howell.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Splitting time between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, Miller turned in a 2.02 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. His 14.9 K/9 led the league. He would immediately earn the trust of manager Don Mattingly, who was forced to muddle through underwhelming performances by 2013 free-agent additions Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright.

Miller is effective against both right-handers and left-handers. Righties hit just .145 against Miller's slider last season, while left-handers batted .163 against it, per Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated.

Cons

The Dodgers do not want to get burned the same way they did last year.

Los Angeles gave Brian Wilson a $10 million contract prior to the 2014 campaign after he impressed during a small sample size at the end of 2013. The result: a 4.66 ERA. In fact, Wilson (who exercised his player option), Howell and Brandon League are due a combined $24 million next season.

Miller established himself as a proven commodity in 2014, but that also means his price tag will be one of the most expensive among free-agent relievers. Friedman may be unwilling to risk another hefty contract on a relief pitcher, although he does have to start somewhere, and the bullpen is definitely a pressing concern this offseason.

Russell Martin

The Dodgers might look for an upgrade at catcher after A.J. Ellis slashed a disappointing .191/.323/.254 last season. One likely replacement would be a player the Dodgers originally drafted: Russell Martin.

Pros

Apr 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA;   Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (55) during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Martin, who recently turned down a qualifying offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, would be a clear offensive upgrade over Ellis. Last season, Martin compiled a .290 average with 11 home runs and 67 RBI. His .832 OPS trailed only Devin Mesoraco, Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy among backstops with more than 400 plate appearances. By comparison, Ellis mustered three home runs and 25 RBI a season ago.

But Martin offers more than just a competent bat. His 5.5 wins above replacement (WAR) were the most among all projected free-agent position players this past season. He is also an elite pitch-framer. Whereas Ellis ranked 35th out of 42 catchers in pitch-framing—with 80.1 percent of pitches he caught in the strike zone called for strikes—Martin was much better at 85.5 percent, per Saxon:

On pitches both inside the strike zone and outside the zone, Martin gets way more calls than the average catcher. On strikes, umpires called it correctly 85.5 percent of the time. On balls, they called it incorrectly 9.4 percent of the time. While 80.1 percent to 85.5 percent might not jump out as the biggest chasm, it is when you consider that the average starting catcher frames more than 9,000 pitches a season.

Martin also threw out 38.5 percent of would-be base stealers last season. Ellis nabbed just 25 percent.

Cons

Cutting ties with Ellis and giving Martin the five-year, $75-80 million contract he's seeking may irk one of the organization's most important employees.

"I don't know what I'm going to do if [Ellis] is not back," Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times after the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs.

Ellis is one of the most popular players in the Los Angeles clubhouse and has developed a healthy relationship with the team's top three starters, Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Martin briefly worked with Kershaw when they were teammates from 2008-2010, but the rapport would have to be re-established.

Whether or not Friedman will listen to his star pitcher's plea is anyone's guess, but it's safe to say Ellis is on thin ice with Martin now available.

Max Scherzer

The top free agent on the market is starting pitcher Max Scherzer. The right-hander won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award while pitching for the Detroit Tigers, and the Dodgers will surely be in the running for his services this offseason.

Pros

Scherzer finished the 2014 season with an 18-5 record and 3.15 ERA. His 10.3 K/9 last season was even better than during his Cy Young year, and he exceeded 30 starts for a sixth consecutive season.

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Another top-notch righty like Scherzer would help balance Los Angeles' rotation. Currently, Greinke is the only elite right-hander alongside southpaws Kershaw and Ryu. 

The 30-year-old veteran reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million extension last March, so he may be in line for an even bigger payday this winter, per Reiter.

The Dodgers would almost certainly boast the best starting rotation in baseball if they were willing to take the financial plunge and add Scherzer to the mix.

Cons

That same financial plunge may also be the biggest risk facing the Dodgers in regard to Scherzer's services.

Los Angeles already rewarded Kershaw with the richest deal in baseball history last spring, and so far it has paid off (besides the postseason).

Scherzer will become the 15th pitcher to sign a contract worth $100 million, which means the Dodgers might actually have the two highest-paid players in the same starting rotation—presuming Scherzer's deal guarantees him upwards of $150 million.

While a potential one-two punch of Kershaw and Scherzer with Greinke as a No. 3 should make fans in Los Angeles giddy, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (h/t Concord Monitor) offers an alternative outlook:

Evaluating the impact of such a workload – not just for next year, but for four years from now – is nearly impossible. Even some deals that must be deemed successful at some level can turn sour. CC Sabathia led the Yankees to a championship in the first season of his seven-year, $161-million deal in New York. That has since been replaced by a five-year contract that extended Sabathia’s time with the Yankees through 2016, and the big left-hander now has chronic knee problems that could hobble him the rest of his career. Pay for a World Series up front, sure. But there’s a real possibility you’ll pay for it for years to come, too.

Even though Kershaw is about to win his third straight Cy Young Award and likely an accompanying MVP, the Dodgers are paying him more than $30 million a year through 2020. A lot can happen in five years, which is why Friedman might feel more comfortable having to monitor just one massive investment instead of two.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise linked/noted.

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